Blankenberger says new Indiana mine could hinge on federal actions

Louisville, Kentucky (Platts)--20 Dec 2016 525 pm EST/2225 GMT

The pace of development of Blankenberger Brothers' proposed new underground thermal coal mine in southern Indiana could hinge on how quickly the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump backs up its pro-coal rhetoric with action, Donnie Blankenberger, the company's president, said Tuesday.

Blankenberger's BB Mining subsidiary was issued a final Indiana permit in early September for the new mine, which could conceivably produce up to 1.5 million st of high-sulfur coal annually for multiple years. The permit includes just under 1,000 shadow acres.

In an interview, Donnie Blankenberger said that while development of the mine is a question of when, not if, his company is watching closely to see if Trump will make good on his campaign promises to eliminate or scale back federal regulations the coal industry deems as onerous.

"Right now, until [Trump] gets in and changes things" the new mine may remain on hold while the company awaits sales orders, he said. "He's got a lot of good cabinet members."

Although he was not specific, Blankenberger said the Obama administration hamstrung the industry during the past eight years with layer after layer of new regulations.

"They put a lot of stuff in place that's hurting the coal industry and power plants." The Trump administration "needs to back off a lot of stuff they put in place."

Already, Blankenberger Brothers/BB Mining are getting calls from people who would like jobs in the new mine. But any hiring is premature.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Donnie Blankenberger acknowledged about the new mine getting into production. In fact, the mine probably is not a 2017 project, for now, although the timing will depend on the market. "We're talking to a lot of people about it," he said.

The new mine is expected to draw upon an estimated reserve base of 35 million st of reserves formerly owned by IPALCO Enterprises, once the parent company of Indianapolis Power & Light. IP&L now is a subsidiary of AES Corp. of Arlington, Virginia.

The BB Mining coal in Pike County, Indiana, averages 11,300 to 11,500 Btu/lb and 6 lbs SO2/MMBtu. Average seam thickness is about seven feet.

BB Mining was the only coal company awarded a permit by the Indiana Division of Reclamation for a new mine in 2016.

--Bob Matyi,

--Edited by Richard Rubin,

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